A new year, a new challenge. Author and publicist extroidinaire Emlyn Chand has issued an exciting reading challenge. As we go forward into 2012, Emlyn asks us to go backward in time and re-discover the books we read in our youth. What were our favorite books? Which books put us on the path to lifelong reading? Re-reading them now, as adults, do we feel the same way about them as we did “back then”, or have we outgrown them?
Each month, an author of children’s books will sponsor the challenge. We’ll be seeing children’s lit, middle grade, YA. It will be a veritable feast of reading what turned us on to reading.
I am lucky enough to have come from a long line of readers. I can trace my reading heritage back to my grandmother, although I suspect it goes beyond her. My mother was a voracious reader and she passed that passion on to my five sisters and me.
I’ve been reading since I was five years old. I got my first library card at age five, but I was reading simple stories before then. We lived a mere two blocks away from our town’s public library. To get a library card, a child had to be six years old, and be able to write his or her name in full. Being a bit precocious in reading, I could do that at age five, and so my mother requested that I get a library card. The library stuck by their rules, and said I couldn’t get my card until that September, when I turned six. My mother was relentless; I think maybe by then she couldn’t keep me supplied with enough books at home. With three other little ones at that time to care for, I imagine she was desperate for activities to keep me busy.
The library finally saw things Mom’s way and let me have my own card before I turned six, and so I began my journey as an insatiable reader. Through the years I read everything I could get my hands on—starting with picture books, early readers, on to middle grade, and then adult novels. Plenty of non-fiction found its way into my hands, also—biographies, plays, travel books, and how-to books on many topics.
It was a no-brainer that when I became old enough, I got my first job as a page at the library. During my high school years, I learned the inner workings of running a library, everything from shelving books to mending them, and many things in between.
Some of my favorite younger books were Stone Soup and Caps for Sale. A publisher that I don’t remember had a series of biographies that I couldn’t get enough of in middle school. I read about all sorts of people. There was Michael Faraday, the scientist; Juliette Gordon Low, the founder of the Girl Scouts; Harriet Beecher Stowe; Benjamin Franklin; George Washington.
As I grew older, Trixie Belden and her friends entertained me as they solved mystery after mystery. I read every play Neil Simon wrote, and tried to teach myself the Hawaiian language. The topic didn’t matter; I inhaled every book that wasn’t quick enough to run out of my way.
My absolute favorite children’s book is one that I didn’t read as a child. While working at the library in my senior year of high school, I became enthralled with a newly released picture book—Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, by Judith Viorst. It doesn’t matter how young or old you are, everyone has days when they want to chuck it all and move to Australia! I often choose this book to give as a gift for new babies. I have a hunch that the new parents can relate well to the sentiment Alexander lives through. (more…)